Government appears to be taking the steps to frame a renewable energy policy for the country. But this policy-making needs to be expedited in view of the need to boost energy supplies which are still trailing demand. Notwithstanding a great deal accomplished already by the present government to increase power generation, the situation is such that any additional supply of energy from any source would be most welcome and relieving for the economy.
A seminar was held in Dhaka some years ago on the prospects of renewable energies in Bangladesh. It was attended by experts in the field from different countries. It was revealed in this seminar that Bangladesh has the potential to produce 10,000 mw of electricity on a sustainable basis from the solar source alone. This amount is well above the current total effective demand for electricity in the country. Only the process of getting electricity from the solar source needs to be facilitated by government’s fiscal policies that would exempt imported equipment for this sector from duties and rewarding entrepreneurs in this sector with measures like tax holiday for a longer period.
Another recent finding is that rice husks produced as a by-product after separating the grain from the chaff, can be utilized by small scale plants to generate about 400 mw of electricity on daily basis throughout the country. This amount would meet the total demand for power of rice mills and leave a surplus for any user. Then, there are much potentials to produce electricity from winds by operating windmills, from operating small turbines in rivers when their flows are strong and from waves of the ocean in the coastal areas.
Even our neighbouring countries, specially India, have been harnessing such non conventional power for some years . Such non conventional sources supply a significant amount also to the national power grid of that country. The vast rural areas of India have become considerably self-sufficient in power from developing and utilizing such non conventional sources of off-grid electricity. The same model of viable electrification beckons to Bangladesh for the taking. The slogan in this country of reaching power to all on an enduring basis can be only realistically met from developing such renewable off-grid grid sources of electricity in the rural areas where the greatest number in the Bangladesh population have an existence.
Bangladesh presently spends a great deal of resources on imported petroleum based fuels. But these imports can be substantially decreased from domestically produced alternatives. For example, there is a scope for producing ethanol from the molasses produced in large quantities in Bangladesh. Ethanol can be also produced from other sources such as agricultural wastes and from municipal garbage. Ethanol is an ideal fuel. It burns cleanly, producing virtually none of the pollutants associated with conventional gasoline or diesel oil. And the technology for producing it is relatively simple and, thus, affordable for a country like Bangladesh. In the USA and Brazil, vehicles operate on mixtures that contain up to 20 per cent ethanol.
There is also the great potential of producing diesel for use in automotive vehicles in Bangladesh from jatrofa plants. The seeds of this plant are crushed to make a liquid similar to diesel called bio-diesel. Bio-diesel from jatrofa plants is significantly meeting requirements of fuels for transporters in neighbouringIndia. Jatrofa plants can grow easily without a care anywhere.
A plan to introduce jatrofa cultivation was reported sometime ago. But no further follow-up in the matter was heard since then. Therefore, activities should be speeded up to produce ethanol and bio-disel and use them extensively in the road transport sector.